Words we never imagined last December typing for this December's bowl preview story: thank goodness for San Diego State. If not for the Aztecs, California would have no team south of Fresno in a bowl game. San Diego State has a better record than USC, UCLA and, presently, the Chargers — you talk about lightning bolts. The Aztecs (8-4) are hosting Navy (9-3) in the Poinsettia Bowl and, if they win, may want to consider relocation to Los Angeles. It just proves predicting bowl games is easy compared with predicting everything else. Next you'll tell us snow balls the size of meteors recently crashed through the roof of Minneapolis' Metrodome. Here are this year's worst-to-best bowl rankings, picks and comments — attached with the usual conditions, waiver consent forms and consumer warnings:
35: BBVA Compass (Jan. 8): Pittsburgh (7-5) vs. Kentucky (6-6)
Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt already has resigned and Kentucky quarterback was suspended after charge of public intoxication. Enjoy.
34: New Mexico (Saturday): Brigham Young (6-6) vs. Texas El Paso (6-6)
Two "activate flotation device" programs playing in home stadium of a 1-11 team (New Mexico) that would kill to get in a game this good.
33: Pinstripe (Dec. 30): Syracuse (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5)
Not a bowl game sponsored by Attica, rather, a game at new Yankee Stadium that features one team from upstate New York and another from Manhattan (Kansas).
Winner: Kansas State
32: Texas (Dec. 29): Baylor (7-5) vs. Illinois (6-6)
Baylor enters game on a three-game losing streak while Illinois is coming off an inspired loss at Fresno State.
31: Meineke Car Care (Dec. 31): Clemson (6-6) vs. South Florida (7-5)
South Florida coach tries to make an appointment with ESPN's "Dr. Lou" but told he's busy evaluating Mark May.
Florida International used Toledo's nickname (Rockets) to propel back from a 0-4 launch-pad start.
Winner: Florida International.
29: New Orleans (Saturday): Ohio (8-4) vs. Troy (6-6)
Strange that Ohio and Ohio State, who played each other this year, end up playing bowl games in same city.
28: Beef O'Brady's (Tuesday): Louisville (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (8-4)
Southern Miss recently had three-game win streak snapped by Tulsa — nothing compared with streak that ended for Brett Favre.
Winner: Southern Miss
27: Military (Dec. 29): East Carolina (6-6) vs. Maryland (8-4)
Maryland expected to be invited to a better bowl: "It is what it is," coach Ralph Friedgen said. Let the festivities begin.
26: Armed Forces (Dec. 30): Southern Methodist (7-6) vs. Army (6-6)
Watch ESPN's "Pony Excess" film to learn just how far SMU has come from depths of Death Penalty scandal.
25: Music City (Dec. 30): North Carolina (7-5) vs. Tennessee (6-6)
Tennessee fans celebrate glorious 6-6 first season without Lane Kiffin as head coach.
24: Insight (Dec. 28): Missouri (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5)
Any team from Iowa that doesn't want to play in a game like this probably needs to be drug tested.
Nebraska returns to bowl it doesn't want to be in to face a team it doesn't want to play again.
22: Liberty (Dec. 31): Central Florida (10-3) vs. Georgia (6-6)
Florida, Florida State and Miami will visit Orlando in offseason to learn secrets of building a national program.
21: Ticket City (Jan. 1): Northwestern (7-5) vs. Texas Tech (7-5)
Member of Big Ten's "Legends" division faces team one year removed from legend of Mike Leach.
Winner: Texas Tech
20: Humanitarian (Saturday): Northern Illinois (10-3) vs. Fresno State (8-4)
Fresno returns to Boise State's field hoping it can find the end zone this time.
Winner: Northern Illinois
19: Champs Sports (Dec. 28): North Carolina State (8-4) vs. West Virginia (9-3)
Experts still trying to figure out how a team that finished 9-3 couldn't win the Big East.
Winner: West Virginia
18: GoDaddy.com (Jan. 6): Middle Tennessee (6-6) vs. Miami (Ohio) (9-4)
Sun Belt and MAC pretty much own this five-days-after-Jan. 1 bowl slot.
Winner: Miami (Ohio)
17: Chick-fil-A (Dec. 31): Florida State (9-4) vs. South Carolina (9-4)
Cam-shy South Carolina defenders coaxed back to field where they were terrorized by Auburn quarterback.
Winner: South Carolina
16: Fight Hunger (Jan. 9): Boston College (7-5) vs. Nevada (12-1)
Players can tell their grandkids they fell only one day short of the BCS national title game.
15: Poinsettia (Dec. 23): San Diego State (8-4) vs. Navy (9-3)
Two years after Boise-TCU and one year after Utah-Cal, this San Diego-based bowl gets another potential gem.
Winner: San Diego State
14: Cotton (Jan. 7): Louisiana State (10-2) vs. Texas A&M (9-3)
Fox gets the call in one of only three bowl games NOT televised by ESPN family … but people say the BCS is a monopoly?
Winner: Texas A&M
13: Gator (Jan. 1): Mississippi State (8-4) vs. Michigan (7-5)
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez's future, held hostage for days, reaches New Year's conflict resolution.
Winner: Mississippi State
12: Fiesta (Jan. 1): Oklahoma (11-2) vs. Connecticut (8-4)
Four years after getting shocked by "non AQ" Boise State in desert, Oklahoma takes it out on weakest "AQ" ever.
11: Independence (Dec. 27): Georgia Tech (6-6) vs. Air Force (8-4)
This game could be over in two hours if nation's No. 1 and No. 2 rushing offenses promise not to use any timeouts.
Winner: Air Force
10: Alamo (Dec. 29): Oklahoma State (10-2) vs. Arizona (7-5)
Alamo never dreamed picking up Pac-10 No. 2 slot would yield team trying to stop four-game losing streak.
9: Las Vegas (Wednesday): Utah (10-2) vs. Boise State (11-1)
Winner: Boise State
8: Sun (Dec. 31): Miami (7-5) vs. Notre Dame (7-5)
Think "Convicts vs. Catholics" without the star coaches, players, records or implications.
7: Outback (Jan. 1): Florida (7-5) vs. Penn State (7-5)
Can't-take-it-anymore 46-year-old Florida coach stares across field at can't-get-rid-of-him 84-year-old.
6: Hawaii (Dec. 24): Tulsa (9-3) vs. Hawaii (10-3)
Wagering two pineapples this will be the most entertaining game of the bowl season.
5: Sugar (Jan. 4): Ohio State (11-1) vs. Arkansas (10-2)
Hogs fans in pig faces will just stay over to help coordinate Mardi Gras parade.
4: Capital One (Jan. 1): Michigan State (11-1) vs. Alabama (9-3)
Memo to Spartans: This is just as good a matchup as two "BCS" games you didn't make.
3: Orange (Jan. 3): Virginia Tech (11-2) vs. Stanford (11-1)
Some think victory in bowl will help Harbaugh build momentum for next year's team in Michigan.
2: Rose (Jan. 1): Texas Christian (12-0) vs. Wisconsin (11-1)
Will Wisconsin band director leave starting brass section in Rose Parade long after it's decided?
1: BCS (Jan. 10): Auburn (13-0) vs. Oregon (12-0)
Cam Newton puts on 35 pounds after rubber-chicken awards circuit and is rolled out for introductions in a wheel barrel.